Can a girl really stand to live a lifestyle that allows her to have access to a room full of desserts every single day? The answer is yes. Especially when the dessert room also includes a chocolate fountain. Every. Single. Day.
This isn’t something I dreamed up during a lull at work; it’s not something out of a fairy tale; and it certainly isn’t something I read about in a women’s magazine. This was Simi and Amit’s wedding.
The location: The Leela Palace, Bangalore. (The only five-star hotel I’ve ever, or probably will ever, stay in.)
Simi, as I mentioned before, was one of my roommates at NYU. Amit is now her husband. I hadn’t met him until the wedding. They’re both Americans, of Indian heritage. They both grew up in New Jersey, and, as if this whole story were some sort of movie, their families have known each other for years. And no, it wasn’t an arranged marriage. These are two throughly “modern” people. My best memories of Simi are of the crazy boyfriends she would introduce us (the unsuspecting roommates) to, her addiction to television dramas aimed squarely at the teenage set (i.e. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Gilmore Girls), and the seemingly neverending stream of designer jeans that would rotate through her tiny, Manhattan-apartment closet.
Even a year and a half of living together in close quarters, I’m certain Simi’s wedding now tops the list of best Simi memories. Four days of eating, dancing, eating, drinking, and dancing some more.
The first night, the welcome dinner, was really just an excuse to party. It’s hard not to dance at an event like this. Everyone, including the grandparents, is dancing. I hobbled to the hotel room I was sharing with Anu, Judy and Mike (one of Amit’s friends) at about 2 a.m., hoping to rest up for the next night’s event — the Sangeet. I had been warned before the events started that the wedding would be a non-stop party and that I should rest up while it was still possible. Little did I know how true that statement was. When I left early the first night, I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing out on something because very few people were calling it quits. A handful of men and women in their 70s stayed up much later than I did.
The Sangeet, though, was really when the party started. Simi and Amit’s friend performed a skit and a dance.
Besides the usual room of desserts, chocolate fountain, endless array of food, and dancing, the night included a performance by Pubjabi singer Sukhbir. Being the clueless American, I had no idea who this guy was — his music was great, but who was he? It turns out he’s huge not only in India, but apparently also in London.
I was totally rested and ready to stay up all night. But then the cops shut down the party at around 2 a.m. A government official was staying at the Leela that night and the music was annoying him.
The next day was the Mehendi for the women — the henna ceremony. It was a nice low key event after another night of over-drinking and over-eating. We sat and got our hands decorated with henna. The woman who did mine finished in about 45-seconds, making me feel like she did a somewhat sloppy job. And then when I compared it to Simi’s henna (below), I realized she definitely did a sloppy job. After about an hour, I started getting impatient. I couldn’t do anything with the sticky concoction of drying henna and lemon juice dribbled on to make the design “stick.” I didn’t care anymore if the design wasn’t dark enough. There was another buffet waiting outside and I wanted to eat. So I went to the bathroom and scrapped the henna off — and jumped in line for food.
The day of the wedding ceremony, we were still all feeling a bit tired. But the upbeat theme of the day definitely snapped me out of my slightly hungover, only-had-four-hours-of-sleep fog. Amit, his family and friends, all met outside the Leela. Amit got on a white, bejeweled horse, and his family and friends danced around as the horse slowly made its way to the hotel gate where his side of the family would meet up with the bride’s side of the family. Live music, clapping, dancing, and twirling, colorful clothes is enough to wake anyone up from a weeks worth of wedding events.
The bride, with her attendents, and groom met in the middle, under a canopy of jasmine and roses.
Although the actual ceremony seems like it should be the height of the wedding — for the guests it definitely wasn’t. The entire ceremony was performed in Sanskrit. Even the bride and groom couldn’t understand what was being said, though I’m sure they had been briefed on what exactly they were promising each other. We later got a translation, which included some memorable lines, including the promise that “even in dreams, (the bride) will never think of any other image except (the groom)” and that “(the groom) shall keep (himself) away from bad company and gamblers.”
About two minutes into the ceremony, a waiter starting tip-toeing up and down the aisles of guests. He approached Judy, Anu and I and whispered that “high tea” was served. Um, the wedding just started, I thought. Why would we leave? This is what all those events have been leading up to? But after about 15 minutes of squirming in our seats while listening to Sanskrit vows, I told Judy and Anu that I was getting hungry. They were too, so we eased out of our seats and bolted toward the buffet. We thought we were being rude, just up and leaving in the middle of the ceremony. What we didn’t realize was that at least half of the wedding guests had already left and were hanging out at the buffet. Someone later told us that it’s pretty common for guests to leave during the ceremony at an Indian wedding.
Lucky for us, there was another chocolate fountain waiting for us — ready for us to dip pineapple, strawberries, cookies and marshmellows into its lucious stream of sweetness.
Days, even weeks, after the wedding, as I was traveling through India and then Laos, the image of the chocolate fountain would pop into my head. But alas, life with a chocolate fountain could not go on forever.